Still reeling from the Great Recession and mounting pressures to deliver critical services, many state and local governments are taking aggressive action to survive and thrive in economic uncertainty.
In the latest issue of Virginia Issues & Answers, Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs brings together experts and practitioners from across the commonwealth to share concepts and best practices for financial resilience in state and local government.
The lessons the authors offer can be applied in Virginia and beyond. Articles include:
Financial Resilience: What it Means to the Local Government Manager
Joe Casey, county administrator for Chesterfield County, Virginia, brings the financial resilience concept to ground level, emphasizing four key components: engaging stakeholders, earning trust, countering emotional decision-making, and deploying economic development incentives.
America’s Progress Hinges on Resilient Public Universities
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the American Association of Universities, argues that the long-term resilience of our public institutions of higher learning depends upon many sectors of society—state and federal governments, the private sector, and universities themselves—taking strong action.
Enterprise Risk Management: A Key to Organizational Resilience and Self-Defense
Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) frees up the flow of information within an organization to help leaders anticipate and prepare for strategic, “big picture” risks. Tom Stanton of Johns Hopkins University discusses the strengths of and basic steps for implementing ERM.
Making Capital Funding Reasonable, Stable, and Sustainable in Orange County, Virginia
Orange County, Virginia, deferred maintenance for so long during the Great Recession that it was eventually forced to use emergency funds to replace an ambulance. Assistant County Administrator for Finance & Management Services Glenda Bradley explains how the county implemented Capital Improvement Planning to anticipate capital expenditures over the long term.
Director’s Experience Building Resiliency in Local Government Informs Graduate Certificate Programs at SPIA
Stephanie Davis, director of SPIA’s graduate certificate in public and nonprofit financial management, describes how she implemented financial resilience principles as a county finance director, and how SPIA’s certificate program teaches these concepts to students.
Virginia Issues & Answers is an online public policy magazine published as an outreach service of the university. It offers a forum for government thought-leaders and policymakers to raise awareness of the issues facing the commonwealth and share options for resolving them.
Published for more than two decades as a print magazine, Virginia Issues & Answers has been reinvented as a quarterly digital publication of the School of Public and International Affairs. It offers SPIA and Virginia Tech faculty, as well as practitioners and policy experts from across the commonwealth, the opportunity to highlight research and impact policymaking. Each edition focuses on a central theme or critical issue in contemporary state and local policymaking, drawing lessons from around the world that can be applied in Virginia and beyond.
Housed within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, SPIA comprises the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Government and International Affairs, and Urban Affairs and Planning, with locations in the National Capital Region, Alexandria, Richmond, and Blacksburg.
Visit https://via.spia.vt.edu/ to learn more about Virginia Issues & Answers.
What’s exceptional about Myers-Lawson School of Construction grads? It’s hard to name just one thing.
They’re an extraordinarily close-knit, proud bunch, loyal to their programs and each other, with a strong sense of service. Those qualities make them highly coveted in the construction industry, where they enjoy 100 percent employment prior to graduation with some of the nation’s top firms.
Meet four outstanding 2017 MLSoC graduates:
Ben Carpenter: Bullish on Building Construction
Hometown: Round Hill, VA
Job: Field engineer for Skanska USA Building, in Tysons Corner, Virginia
What do you do in your job? My job is in the construction management field – overseeing subcontractors, safety concerns, coordinating construction work, quality control, and a variety of other tasks. Initially, I’m assigned to the construction of a 20-story, high-rise building.
How did you land your job? I interned at Skanska two summers and a winter, and was offered a full-time position before starting my senior year.
How was your major and MLSoC helpful to you? Building Construction is the best major at Virginia Tech! Every class had relevant, real-world applications that helped me succeed in my daily tasks as a student and intern, and in my current job as a field engineer.
What’s the greatest thing about MLSoC and your department/program? Number One: Faculty/Staff. Every professor is always willing to assist students at any time of the day. They all have open-door policies, offer great career advice, have expansive industry knowledge and connections, and really love construction and the future of the industry.
Number Two: Industry Support and Involvement. The construction industry support to MLSoC and the students is tremendous. There are unbelievable job opportunities and the career fair is always packed with great companies that care about our future.
What was the most interesting project you worked on during your time at Virginia Tech? I was part of a team of four Building Construction students that built a replica model of Burruss Hall, in the style of a children’s playhouse for Habitat for Humanity. It was raffled off in Bristol, Tennessee, before the Battle at Bristol.
Stephanie Morales: First-Generation Grad Serves Country and Industry
Hometown: Freeport, NY
Job: Surface Warfare Officer on the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) out of Norfolk, Virginia.
How did you land your job? Naval ROTC and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.
How was your major and MLSoC helpful to you? Construction Engineering Management is an amazing, hands-on engineering degree with a supportive, family atmosphere for a first-generation student trying to keep my degree affordable. MLSoC gave me ample opportunities for internships, service trips, and networking relationships, which have proven invaluable.
What’s the greatest thing about MLSoC and your program? The faculty! Everyone wants to help and see each student succeed. I have not yet (after 5 years) come across a professor or staff member in MLSoC that has not wanted the best for each student.
What was the most interesting/fulfilling project you worked on during your time at Virginia Tech? My spring break service trip to Kaua’i, Hawaii, through the Peacework organization. A group of Virginia Tech Building Construction, CEM, and A+D students helped construct a garden facility for a local Hawaiian immersion school as part of an initiative to ensure that all students, including low-income students who qualify for a school food lunch program, have access to healthy, local, culturally relevant foods.
Were there any opportunities you had as a student in MLSoC that you believe were extraordinary for a college student? Getting to go on trips to the steel mill, concrete plant, and Hokie Stone Quarry!
Is there anything noteworthy about your background or journey to Virginia Tech? I am the first to graduate college in my immediate family. My family migrated to the U.S. from Colombia 25 years ago with the intention of a better life for their kids.
James Martin: Construction Servant-Leader
Hometown: Woodbridge, VA
Job: Field engineer at Allan Myers in Fairfax, Virginia.
What do you do in your job? I have been assigned to work on a large project adding express lanes to I-66 in Northern Virginia to help reduce traffic.
How did you land your job? In 2014, the vice president of Allan Myers came to one of my classes and gave a lecture on effective communication in the workplace. He said that he would hang around after class for a few minutes to answer any questions we had. My dad’s words rang in my head (“Always look for opportunities to network!”) and I decided to talk to him. To make a long story short, I was offered an internship with Allan Myers for the summer of 2015 as a laborer. I interned again with the company in the summer of 2016 as an assistant field engineer. At the end of that summer internship, I was offered a full-time position.
How was your major and MLSoC helpful to you? I believe that this major has taught me everything that I need to know to get a good running start to my career. Before coming to Virginia Tech, I knew hardly anything about engineering; just that I wanted to do it. Now I feel completely prepared for work in the industry. I cannot thank the faculty enough for what they have taught me.
What’s the greatest thing about MLSoC and your department/program? I think that CEM is the best major at Virginia Tech, because it offers a balance of the technical knowledge needed to succeed after graduation and the “soft skills” of communication and management that are also essential. In addition, the School of Construction offers so many resources to grow, such as networking events, seminars, opportunities for undergraduate research, clubs, and the amazing faculty who are always so helpful and supportive.
What was the most interesting/fulfilling project you worked on during your time at Virginia Tech? The most interesting project I worked on was undergraduate research on workforce development in the construction industry through the Simmons Research Lab. My project focused on the differences in leadership training of construction project managers in higher education versus the workplace. I learned a lot about the need to develop leaders, and it inspired me to undertake and provide leadership development and training throughout my career.
Is there anything unusual or noteworthy about your background or journey to Virginia Tech? In 2012, I went with a church group down to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to help with a service project to give running water to a small, poor school in one of the barrios outside the city. A lot of engineers were on that team, and I saw how engineering, construction, and service are all intertwined. After that experience, I knew I wanted to do engineering, and I chose to go to Virginia Tech.
Cat Hauser: Industry Partnerships Forge Student Success
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Job: Office engineer at Holder Construction in Dallas, Texas
What will you do in your job? Initially, I will be working on a project with American Airlines.
How did you land your job? I landed my job at the MLSoC Career Fair. I spoke to the representatives from Holder at the Career Fair and then they called me and brought me to Atlanta for an interview.
How was your major and MLSoC helpful to you? Through my major I’ve been exposed to many industry partners in career fairs, seminars, and classes throughout the year. They present different topics to us and answer any questions we might have. Building Construction also encourages multiple internships before graduation, allowing us to gain real-world experience to help us land a job when we graduate.
What’s the greatest thing about MLSoC and your program? I always say it’s the people that make the whole program. The best part about Building Construction is the tight-knit community we have. We have a common area in Bishop-Favrao where we study and we all know each other and get along really well.
What was the most interesting project you worked on during your time at Virginia Tech? I was part of a four-person team that got to design all the steel aspects for a three-story building. It was fulfilling to see everything we have been learning come to fruition.
What extraordinary opportunities did MLSoC afford you? MLSoC’s industry ties are first-rate. The support from industry partners who really care played a major role in our education and career development. From talking to our classes and hosting information sessions to coming to our Career Fairs and offering internship opportunities, our partners are very committed to helping MLSoC students succeed in the industry.
As a student at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Morgan Matt launched a start-up company, funded successful products on Kickstarter, and redesigned archaic everyday items to be more humane and sustainable. The industrial design major from Canton, Connecticut, is the college’s 2017 Outstanding Senior.
Matt completed her degree summa cum laude in the fall and is already at work in her new job at Insight Product Development in Chicago, where she helps design medical and noninvasive surgical equipment for an award-winning healthcare design consultancy.
She thanks her professors and the School of Architecture + Design’s supportive, close-knit community for fostering her entrepreneurial spirit.
“The talent I’ve seen come out of this college is absolutely unbelievable,” she said. “For me to have been selected Outstanding Senior is humbling. I feel like it’s a way to pay back my professors for everything they’ve given me. They provided a safe place to take risks and taught me how to network and interact with people as an industrial designer.”
Matt’s success as an industrial designer began early in her college career. During her sophomore year, she was selected as part of the first group of students for the Industrial Design Chicago Studio. Working with the nonprofit DesignHouse, she helped design, market, and launch the first in a line of locally-manufactured products aimed at revitalizing Chicago’s manufacturing industry.
In her junior year, she worked with two classmates to design Vàs, an artful, sustainable, modular planter that hangs on the wall, allowing people to grow plants and herb gardens in apartments, dorms, and cubicles. The award-winning product, launched in a Kickstarter campaign, was so successful that Matt took off a semester to manufacture and distribute it. Though she entertained several offers to produce Vàs wholesale, Matt returned to Virginia Tech to finish her degree.
Next, she worked on the “Tilly Tote,” a sustainable gardening kit tote for children, and created biodegradable packaging for a Chicago cupcake maker that sells its goods at Whole Foods and in Chicago stores.
In her final semester, Matt turned her focus to a topic that reshaped the path of her career. For her thesis project, she redesigned the speculum used in gynecological exams. The metal, two-pronged device in use today still bears the 1845 design introduced by a male doctor in Alabama.
“It’s an uncomfortable, taboo topic, but the more I researched it, the more I knew this was something I had to do as a female designer,” she said. “Here’s a device designed for women that shows no empathy. They universally hate it.”
Her surveys on the device garnered 700 unequivocally negative responses from women in 48 hours.
Matt’s speculum, ProSpec, offers a more modern and dignified prototype. The device, along with Matt’s history of bringing strong research, empathy, and entrepreneurship to her work, impressed the management at Insight Design Product Development – one of three job offers she entertained.
Now happily embarking on her dream job in Chicago, Matt says her true home and the roots of her inspiration will always be Virginia Tech.
“I can’t imagine a better place,” she said. “I feel like I have a lot of options available to me and that’s entirely due to the experience I had in the industrial design program at Virginia Tech.”
Letitia A. Long, the first woman to lead a major U.S. intelligence agency, received Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award during the university commencement ceremony May 12 at Lane Stadium.
The award recognizes achievements of national distinction in a field of enduring significance to society.
Long of Arlington, Virginia, directed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from August 2010 until October 2014, culminating a career that spanned all aspects of organizational leadership, business functions, and global operations at the agency.
Her distinguished service as a civilian in the Department of Defense and the intelligence community started even before she earned her bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1982. She began as a civilian intern with the U.S. Navy in 1978, transitioned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, and served in multiple leadership positions, including deputy director of naval intelligence.
Long served as the first deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence (policy, requirements, and resources), was the first chief information officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and later became deputy director of that agency.
Long has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive, two Presidential Rank Awards of Meritorious Executive, two Department of Defense Medals for Distinguished Service, and three National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medals.
She has been decorated with the Medal of Merit by the King of Norway, appointed to the rank of chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor of France, and awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
Long has served on numerous boards, including those of the School of Public and International Affairs within Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Virginia Tech’s Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology.
She sits on the board of Raytheon Company, Urthecast Corporation, Noblis Inc., and D-Wave Government Systems, and chairs the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. She is on the board of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and is an executive in residence with Brookings Executive Education.
Long earned a master’s in mechanical engineering from the Catholic University of America and was awarded an honorary doctorate of strategic intelligence by the National Intelligence University.
John Lawson is president and CEO of a leading national construction firm that employs dozens of Virginia Tech graduates, a namesake and co-founder of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and a proud part of a Hokie family legacy spanning three generations.
Add to that list of accomplishments Virginia Tech’s highest honor.
Lawson, who earned his degree in geophysics from Virginia Tech 42 years ago, returned to the commencement stage on May 12 to receive the William H. Ruffner Medal from President Timothy Stands before packed stands at Lane Stadium.
The Ruffner medal recognizes individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university.
“It is an honor to present the Ruffner Medal to John Lawson in recognition of his dedication to the university and his contributions to our spirit of service,” Sands said during the ceremony. “To say he left his mark on the university is an understatement. Mr. Lawson was a driving force behind the adoption of our campus design guidelines that promote the use of Hokie stone and collegiate gothic architecture. His expertise contributed to our beautiful Moss Arts Center and the west side expansion we enjoy here at Lane Stadium.”
A premier example of the lifelong commitment to Ut Prosim, Lawson, of Newport News, is president and CEO of W.M. Jordan Company, as well as an industry leader, university champion, partner, employer, and philanthropist.
Lawson’s company, W.M. Jordan, ranks yearly on the Engineering News Record list of top 400 contractors and has a portfolio of more than 1,100 projects. He started his career at the company as a field engineer, shortly after earning his bachelor’s in geophysics from Virginia Tech in 1975.
Along with his wife, Paige, Lawson is a charter member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, a distinction reserved for Virginia Tech’s most generous supporters. A 2006 co-founder of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction with fellow alumnus Ross Myers, Lawson also co-chaired The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, which concluded in 2011 after surpassing its $1 billion goal.
Lawson’s extensive service to Virginia Tech also includes serving on the Board of Visitors from 2002-2010. He was rector of the board from 2008-2010, has been a member advocate of Hokies for Higher Education, and was a 2012 recipient of Virginia Tech’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award.
Lawson’s extensive community involvements have included serving on boards for the CEO Roundtable, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Christopher Newport University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign (as chairman), Greater Peninsula NOW, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, TowneBank, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, The Virginia Tech Foundation, and the Mariners’ Museum. He is a past chairman of the Fort Monroe Authority and the Virginia Peninsula Economic Development Council, and is a past president of Associated General Contractors of Virginia.
Lawson’s extensive engagement and generosity have garnered numerous awards and honors. These include the CIVIC Darden Award for Regional Leadership, the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Legacy Award from Engineering News Record Magazine, induction into the Old Dominion University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, the Golden Paw Award from the Virginia Living Museum, induction into the Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame, the Virginia Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young, and the Lenora Mathews Lifetime Achievement Award from Volunteer Hampton Roads.
Lawson’s father, Robert, was member of Virginia Tech’s Class of 1949. His son, Taylor, is a member of the Class of 2018, and his sister, Liz, was a member of the class of 1980.
“I have personally benefited from Virginia Tech, the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and my industry,” Lawson said. “I feel it’s my obligation to give back. There is no greater reward for my contributions than witnessing the growth of the university, the success of our students, and the cultivation of a world-class workforce of Virginia Tech citizen-leaders.”
Aki Ishida, assistant professor of architecture in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has been named one of the nation’s leading new faculty in architecture. Ishida received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 2016-2017 New Faculty Teaching Award at the organization’s national conference in March. The award recognizes demonstrated excellence in teaching performance during the first 10 academic semesters of a full-time architectural teaching career.
This marks Ishida’s second recent prominent national recognition. DesignIntelligence named her one of the 25 Most Admired Educators for 2016.
“It’s a humbling honor to be recognized,” Ishida said. “The past five years at Virginia Tech have been a great education for me as a teacher, designer, and scholar. I have been inspired by my students to deepen and share my knowledge of architecture, by the fellow faculty to be a better teacher and scholar, and by my colleagues to collaborate on works of art, architecture, and technology.”
Ishida joined Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design as full-time faculty in 2012, after a distinguished 17-year career as a professional architect and adjunct lecturer. She is also a fellow of the Institute for Creativity, Arts & Technology. She founded her own firm, Aki Ishida Architect PLLC in New York City, after working for Rafael Vinoly Architects, James Carpenter Design Associates, and I.M. Pei Architect. A New York state-licensed and LEED-accredited architect, she left her mark on projects ranging from museums, hipster bars, and public art installations to Princeton University Stadium.
A graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and the University of Minnesota, Ishida has also taught at Rhode Island School of Design, The Pratt Institute, Parsons The New School for Design, and Konkuk University in Seoul, Korea. Each summer, she teaches architecture courses for high school students at Columbia University.
At Virginia Tech, Ishida has led students in interactive projects that merge art, architecture, and engineering, including the award-winning Lantern Field at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., and The Cloud in Ballston, Virginia. Her students have also collaborated to design exam and recovery rooms for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering, reconceptualized parks and trails in Manhattan, built immersive public art installations, and participated in a Japan travel program to study traditional and contemporary architecture.
“Aki is a professional role model of interdisciplinary design,” said Jack Davis, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “Her teaching and work incorporates influences from multiple cultures, disciplines, and technology fields, for the benefit of our students, colleagues, and general public. It’s a joy to experience and witness the student engagement.”
Ishida teaches second-year studio, advises eight thesis students, and co-leads two faculty-student research and design projects. With the smART field, Ishida is part of an interdisciplinary team devising new paths for Virginia Tech’s Drillfield that integrate illumination, data collection, and energy harvesting into the pavement. She has also worked with the international dance troupe and institute Diavolo on a set design that merges light, motion, and architecture. Her research has been supported by industry partners such as Philips Color Kinetics, the 3M Company, and Arup, a global leader in engineering. Her written scholarship currently focuses on complex readings of glass transparency in architecture, connecting material glass to broader cultural, technical, and social contexts.
In selecting Ishida for the award, the ACSA jury commented, “Aki goes beyond the expected classroom deliverables and really focuses on the learning process of her students. She has a great understanding of how architecture and its elements can be taught through immersion in different cultures.”
Among Ishida’s many admirers are students and recent graduates who cite her as a driving force in their own aspirations and success.
“Aki encourages her students to experiment and fosters the environment for unexpected results,” said Nicholas Coates, a 2015 architecture graduate of Virginia Tech and recipient of the SOM Prize, a prestigious $50,000 travel and research fellowship. “She encompasses one of the most enriching qualities that educators can possess: being learners themselves. She is a professor that continues to grow and evolve with each and every endeavor – a shining role model for her students and the university as a whole.”
Even before graduating from the School of Visual Arts in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, Matthew Yourshaw had already racked up an impressive resume reel in film and television.
The Blacksburg native used his skills in three-dimensional animation and computer-generated imagery to create tentacles for the dark underworld of Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things,” make a spoon fly in a Kellogg’s commercial, and massacre fur trappers with arrows in the Academy Award-winning movie “The Revenant.”
Yourshaw’s 2017 Master of Fine Arts in Creative Technologies is his second degree from Virginia Tech’s School of Visual Arts. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2014.
“I fell in love with 3-D animation at Virginia Tech,” he said. “It allows me to build my own little world. There’s no restriction on what you can imagine or create.”
His master’s thesis, ORBITAL, is a virtual-reality space-simulator video game with a cinematic narrative, placing players into the roles of astronauts on a space walk. Using joysticks and virtual reality headsets, players have two minutes to navigate a minefield of asteroids and get to the space station, before fuel and air in their spacesuit run out.
Yourshaw designed ORBITAL to combine the challenges of a virtual reality video game with the cinematic story arc of “the hero’s journey,” a narrative concept introduced by acclaimed mythology scholar Joseph Campbell that forms the basis for many films.
“I’ve enjoyed watching Matthew’s rise from his freshman year to become a shining star in our Creative Technologies program,” said Thomas Tucker, Associate Professor of Art and chair of Creative Technologies. “He’s a natural teacher and his professional experience has helped inspire students to reach higher standards.”
Yourshaw represents the growing demand in the workplace for graduates who can blend creative skills with technology expertise. The School of Visual Arts introduced Creative Technologies as an undergraduate concentration this year – and saw it quickly emerge as the most popular choice.
Creative Technologies and Experiences is a strategic growth area at Virginia Tech, capitalizing on the university’s interdisciplinary strength in the arts and technology. Virginia Tech’s School of Visual Arts is noted in national rankings as a top 25 animation program.
“Our students land jobs in varied industries ranging from film and television, advertising, and marketing to software development, business, and academia,” said Dane Webster, associate professor of art and senior fellow at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. “Their ability to apply creativity and technology in a variety of contexts makes them rock stars on the job market.”
The fourth in his family to attend Virginia Tech (his father, mother, and older brother are all alumni), Yourshaw always had a passion for special effects. As a kid, he paused the VCR repeatedly to dissect visual effects in “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Rising through Blacksburg High School, he enjoyed editing and film. Upon entering Virginia Tech in 2010, he chose the School of Visual Arts.
“I hadn’t really done a lot of fine art – just some drafting and hand drawing – but that wasn’t a bad thing,” he said. “They teach you to relearn the way you draw. The BFA program allowed me to explore a ton of topics and acquire broad art history knowledge that’s extremely important in everything I do.”
While taking a class on 3-D animation, Yourshaw found his true passion. A series of internships with visual effects offices in New York and Los Angeles honed his skills, beefed up his resume reel, and deepened his career ambitions. Returning as an MFA student, he taught his favorite 3-D animation course to undergraduates.
Now in Los Angeles, Yourshaw works on film and television projects with Gradient Effects, an award-winning international visual effects house, where he spent the last two summers working as a junior CG artist on projects like “Stranger Things,” “The Revenant,” and the TNT series “The Last Ship.” But he also keeps his options open to pursue fun freelance work that allows him to use his talents in areas ranging from lighting and rendering to motion graphics, 3-D effects, virtual reality, and interactive game design.
“I loved the School of Visual Arts and the freedom that it gave me,” he said. “Having big university amenities but the intimacy of a small school was a huge advantage. One of the benefits is the ‘toys’ I get to play with as a student, like our incredible motion capture software. To go from a broad education in traditional drawing, ceramics, painting, sculpture, art history, and to be able to apply all of that in the realm of visual effects and 3-D has been invaluable.”
Two of 14 architects earning top honors as national American Institute of Architects 2017 Young Architects Award winners launched their careers in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
Corey Clayborne, a 2004 graduate of the School of Architecture + Design, and Luis Vélez-Alvarez, a 2005 graduate of the master’s program and former A+D faculty member, were honored at the 2017 AIA Conference on Architecture, April in Orlando, and also in a Virginia Tech reception.
With their awards, Clayborne and Vélez-Alvarez earned Virginia Tech the distinction of being the only architectural program to boast two 2017 national Young Architect alumni winners.
“I think it’s great that two Virginia Tech A+D alumni received awards celebrating the accomplishments and leadership of architects early in their careers,” said Vélez-Alvarez. “This serves as an example of how the School of Architecture + Design prepares students for their professional life and commitment to the community. It also validates the choices I’ve made to work hard in my profession and give back through volunteering and education.”
“It truly is a tremendous honor to receive this award from the AIA,” said Clayborne. “Our university motto at Virginia Tech is ‘Ut Prosim,’ which means That I May Serve. This award is a reflection of just that.”
The AIA Young Architects Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers.
“The recognition of Corey and Luis is a demonstration that our alumni are constantly striving for excellence in their work for their clients, the community, and in service of the profession,” said Hunter Pittman, director of the School of Architecture + Design. “Their commitment to these goals and continuing strong connection to the school is a testament to the school’s core mission of strong professional education as an enduring impact on the profession and the communities it serves.”
Clayborne recently accepted the role of AIA Virginia Executive Vice President/CEO, replacing Virginia Tech alumna Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, who is leaving at the end of this month to focus on her own firm.
Previously, Clayborne was a project manager and senior architect in Wiley|Wilson’s Richmond, Virginia, office, where his responsibilities included financial health, quality control, operational management and project management for a wide variety of local, state and federal projects.
He’s particularly known for his mentorship of the next generation of architects, focusing on their entry into the AIA, licensure and professional and personal group. He has been active in AIA Richmond and AIA Virginia, serving on both boards of directors. He has won numerous awards including the AIA 2017 Young Architects Award and the AIA Virginia 2016 Award for Distinguished Achievement.
His service to the community includes the Charlottesville Planning Commission, Virginia Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects and the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia Mentoring program.
Clayborne was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to Virginia’s Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects in 2015 as the board’s youngest-ever appointee.
Vélez-Alvarez is an associate and architectural designer at SmithGroupJJR’s Washington, D.C., office. His passion to make architecture an extension of nature has led to projects that gained LEED certification, one of which was awarded the LEED Core and Shell Project of the Year in 2009.
He has helped design the Mortgage Bankers Association’s 170,000-square-foot headquarters; award-winning buildings for Carr Properties in Washington, D.C; and currently leads the design effort repositioning the 500,000-square-foot National Press Building.
As AIA|DC’s associate director, he has helped educate young students about architecture through the Washington Architectural Foundation’s Architecture in the Schools program; co-founded its Latin American Interior Designers, Engineers, and Architects committee; and participated in the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program. In 2016, he was named AIA|DC Emerging Architect.
“These two professionals represent the quality education we strive to offer in the college,” said Jack Davis, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “The Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia have strong histories of architectural significance, and we are proud that Corey and Luis have contributed greatly to this heritage.”
Virginia Tech’s architecture program is consistently ranked in the top five nationally by DesignIntelligence, the leading source of design school rankings. It also is home to internationally recognized, award-winning faculty and countless students and alumni who have earned national and global recognition for their work.
“The architectural education that I received at Virginia Tech was tremendous,” Clayborne said. “CAUS offers students the resources and freedom to explore design solutions as much as they like. Those are the types of opportunities that I still remember 13 years later. Our firm has many Hokies on board and we see candidates from Virginia Tech get stronger and stronger each year.”
A one-day design marathon led and executed largely by Hokies delivered critically needed free marketing materials to 18 area nonprofits.
Over 12 hours, designers and developers at Make a Mark’s Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon produced websites, brochures, mobile apps, logos, social media campaigns, and other essentials for nonprofits like Child Health Investment Partnership, Feeding America Southwest Virginia, Local Colors, New River Family Shelter, NRV Cares, and Rescue Mission of Roanoke.
More than half of the 50 volunteers were students, faculty, and alumni from Virginia Tech, including a large contingent from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and its Visual Communication Design program in the School of Visual Arts. Hokie “makers” also hailed from Pamplin College of Business, the College of Engineering, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, InnovationSpace, University Relations, and sponsor companies throughout the region.
“As a senior, I wanted to do something that gave back to the wonderful community that gave to me for five amazing years,” said Berkley Baum, a visual communication design major from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, who helped redesign a website for Orchard Hills Achievement Center. “It’s amazing to see what creative people can do in 12 hours when we all put our heads together. To be able to contribute design that will have value for a nonprofit in need is very gratifying.”
The design volunteers paired up with nonprofit client teams at sponsor Qualtrax’s Blacksburg headquarters March 25. Mentored by SOVA faculty members Jeff Joiner, Meaghan Dee, Patrick Finley, and Katie Meaney, the teams delivered the goods on time and on target to grateful clients.
“The social media toolkit our design team created for us is invaluable,” said Ashley Reynolds Marshall, executive director of Mental Health America of Roanoke Valley and also a Virginia Tech Ph.D. student. “We are a two-person organization, unable to create or contract out for such quality design work. These tools will enable us to have more effective conversations with the community using social media, which can have a profound impact on someone struggling with mental illness or with a loved one who has a mental health issue.”
The event, now in its third year, is the brainchild of Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences alumnus and Make a Mark founder Sarah Obenauer.
After graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Obenauer worked for a nonprofit statewide traffic safety organization and experienced first-hand the desperate need that many nonprofits have for good design and marketing.
Obenauer taught herself design to fill the need for her organization, but then set her sights on helping others.
“At Virginia Tech, I grew deeply as a person, developing my understanding and empathy, my inspiration to lead, and my desire to serve my community,” she said. “I decided there had to be a way to bridge the gap between nonprofits and the creative community and that the best place to start was in our region.”
In 2014, Obenauer launched Make a Mark, building the organization on evenings and weekends while working full-time as a marketing communications specialist at Qualtrax.
Her first design marathon in Blacksburg drew 40 volunteers to help 12 nonprofits. In 2016, it expanded to 15 nonprofits and 80 volunteers.
Today, it’s her full-time vocation and has grown well beyond the Make-a-Thon event. Make a Mark offers free training sessions to nonprofits, events in cities throughout the region, and a growing network of sponsors, donors, and mentors – many with Virginia Tech connections. It also runs a nonprofit roundtable, which brings together nonprofit leaders in diverse areas to share challenges and boost impact.
“I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to focus on executing on my personal purpose, which is lived out through Make a Mark,” Obenauer said. “My goal in life has been to help people tell their stories through design, creativity and technology. I’m humbled by the response from the community and especially from my alma mater.”
Joiner, assistant professor of practice and director of FourDesign, a student-run design studio within SOVA, serves as a creative mentor and Advisory Board member for Make a Mark.
“Through Make a Mark, we can make the world a better place by helping these companies get their message out to more people in need of their services,” Joiner said. “Our motto is Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), and this is a perfect way to use our talents to do that.”
“Make-A-Mark was an opportunity to design something that would make a positive impact in my community, and for my designs to land in something worthwhile,” added junior Julia Rater, a visual communication design major from Sherman, New York. “I loved working with the nonprofits, as well as meeting new team members from the community in our field. I can’t wait for next year!”
Thanks to a group of loyal supporters of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction who gave combined gifts of $25 million, Virginia Tech is poised for global leadership in high-tech, human-centered infrastructure education and research.
The donors included Myers-Lawson namesake John Lawson (geophysics ’75), president and CEO of W.M. Jordan Company, and the Hitt family of HITT Contracting Inc.
Their investment has accelerated the timetable for building an Intelligent Infrastructure and Construction Complex, which includes Hitt Hall, adjacent to Bishop-Favrao Hall, beginning this fall. The project is essential to an effort led by President Timothy Sands and Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis to build research and teaching capacity by leveraging Virginia Tech’s leading programs in smart construction, autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous mobility, and energy systems.
“Virginia Tech is a national leader in construction education, but today’s fast-moving technology demands a broader view,” Lawson said. “By combining knowledge of smart construction with expertise in autonomous vehicles and energy systems, Virginia Tech can be the world’s leading source of expertise in intelligent infrastructure.”
“I’m impressed by the scope of the president’s and provost’s vision for intelligent infrastructure at Virginia Tech,” said Brett Hitt, co-president of HITT Contracting Inc. “Virginia Tech is thinking big about where the world’s infrastructure needs are heading and so is HITT Contracting. We see ourselves as natural partners.”
Hitt’s father and the company’s chairman, Russell Hitt, was one of the project’s early supporters. In thanking all donors to the project, President Sands stressed how critical philanthropy is to Virginia Tech’s global position.
“It is inspiring to have people such as Brett Hitt, Russell Hitt, John Lawson, and other industry leaders show their support with such extraordinary gifts,” Sands said. “With our visionary framework for the future, supported by a strong reputation and transformative philanthropy, this is our opportunity to establish Virginia Tech, with our partners, as the global leader in intelligent infrastructure research and education.”
Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-Centered Communities is one of five interdisciplinary destination areas established at Virginia Tech. Rooted in the Beyond Boundaries vision that is driving the university’s long-range planning, destination areas unite faculty, students, and industry partners from different fields to address complex problems of global significance. Organizing around major issues, rather than traditional academic disciplines, is a strategic departure from typical higher-education practice. The intent is to advance Virginia Tech as a global destination for talent in key, transdisciplinary areas of strength.
Rikakis said scaling up to provide new living-learning models in academic areas of excellence will transform the Virginia Tech student, uniquely preparing a next-generation workforce.
“We are uniquely positioned to take a nationally leading, systems approach to 21st-century infrastructure, since we have strengths at each component and a long tradition of connecting components and overcoming boundaries in order to advance the human condition,” Rikakis said. “Success will accelerate our other destination areas as well, enabling Virginia Tech to redefine how a research university engages the world.”
Adapted from an April 2, 2017, VT News story by Albert Raboteau, director of development communications.